Trail safety encouraged after attack on hiker

May 11, 2010

By Warren Kagarise

Linda Vanderwall hikes challenging Poo Poo Point Trail on Tiger Mountain several times each week and sometimes she makes the steep trek alone.

Vanderwall became more cautious after the April 24 attack on a Seattle woman working on Tiger Mountain Trail, but she refused to alter her routine. Instead, she started toting a mobile phone during hikes after the attack.

“I’m not going to be forced to curtail my exercise because of some guy,” she said last week.

Instead, she hopes to bring together other hikers — especially women — to hike Tiger Mountain without worry.

The woman in the attack said a man dressed in running gear and armed with a stun gun shocked her with the device and pushed her to the ground at about 10:40 a.m. on a Saturday morning — a time when the trail draws weekend hikers and runners.

The woman — part of a state work crew — fought her attacker, escaped and reported the incident. Police continue to search for the suspect.

Suspect

Local hikers, parks officials and law enforcement officers say trails near Issaquah remain safe, and described the Tiger Mountain Trail attack as isolated. But the attack raised questions among Vanderwall and other hikers about how to stay safe from crime while hiking.

“Your percentage of getting hit by a car on the way to the trailhead is a lot higher than being attacked by someone in the woods,” Issaquah Alps Trails Club President Steve Williams said.

Before the attack, he said, the most common concern about trail safety related to dogs and mountain bikers using trails meant for hikers.

Sgt. John Urquhart, King County Sheriff’s Office spokesman, offered simple advice for hikers: “Take a damn cell phone.”

Williams and Lake Sammamish State Park Manager Rich Benson offered the same advice.

But Urquhart cautioned hikers against toting pepper spray and other deterrents, because such items carry the potential to exacerbate a potential attack.

“We just want people to be cognizant of the dangers and of the possible dangers,” he said.

Urquhart credited the woman for promptly reporting the attack and providing detectives with a detailed description of the suspect.

Williams encouraged hikers to join the trails club and similar groups in order to meet hiking partners. He said smaller groups had spun from the club in the past.

Rangers manage Squak Mountain, Bridle Trails and Olallie state parks from the Lake Sammamish State Park office.

“We’ve been lucky down here,” Benson said. “We haven’t had anything like that in a long time.”

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

Stay safe on Issaquah Alps trails

Local law enforcement and parks officials offered the following tips to stay safe on local trails:
  • Carry a mobile phone with a fully charged battery on all hikes.
  • Hike with a buddy or in groups.
  • Tell a friend or family member before setting off on a hike.
  • Do not wear headphones in order to remain alert to the surroundings.
  • Avoid suspicious circumstances and people along the route.
Sources: Issaquah Alps Trails Club, King County Sheriff’s Office, Lake Sammamish State Park
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Comments

2 Responses to “Trail safety encouraged after attack on hiker”

  1. Tim Dutcher on May 12th, 2010 4:39 pm

    Another tip… carry hiking poles to act as another deterrent. They’ll also help save your knees on the way down. Plus, in the very unlikely event that you cross paths with an aggressive bear or cougar, you’ll have more of a fighting chance.

  2. JS on May 29th, 2010 7:27 pm

    If the incident on Tiger was a practice run for this guy, he may be getting a feel for how to effectively immobilize someone. This doesn’t mean he’ll attack in a similar location again. It’s good to be aware of common-sense ways to keep yourself safe wherever you are.
    When hiking, carry a phone, trekking poles or staff and an emergency whistle. Keep a safe distance from people you don’t know. Be particularly careful in trailhead parking areas. This is an opportune place for abduction.

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